I had a very unpleasant experience last week: a gal, I’ll call Ms. X, ripped off my copyrighted sales copy for FacebookFortunes.com and FacebookGuidebook.com, put it up verbatim on her Facebook Profile, her website, and on Podclass… and began promoting the programs as if they were her own. I was shocked.
(I’ve been on the Alpha Team of Podclass since spring ’07 and am now a Platinum Member; Podclass is a Facebook app where you can teach and take classes).
Ms. X calls herself a global communications expert. We had only recently become Facebook friends.
I had not exchanged any communications with Ms. X, and here she was plastering herself all over my wall, shoving her business interest down my throat. Not good manners! In fact, this is SPAM.
Clearly, she was new to the social networking world and wasn’t familiar with what’s called “fetiquette”: Facebook etiquette. (Actually, I assert this aggressive approach is not good etiquette anywhere. Period.) I immediately deleted the wall post.
[By the way, I recommend you keep an eye on your Profile (personal) and Page (business) and weed out anything that isn’t appropriate. Make sure you keep a nice clean Wall. In my opinion, your Profile is like your blog, website, business card, brochure, photo album, virtual storefront, and more, all-in-one. Your prospective clients, business partners, and your competitors may be watching you closely.]
A week after the Wall post incident, it came to my attention Ms. X had plagiarized my materials. I could hardly believe this gal was presenting classes as if she were an expert on Facebook; she’d only recently joined Facebook and had about 40 friends.
Here’s the actions I took immediately:
- Wrote on her Facebook Profile Wall.
- Emailed her through Facebook, asking why she’d taken my material verbatim.
- Emailed her through Podclass.
- Emailed her via the contact form on her main website.
- Called her and left a voicemail message.
- Removed her as a Facebook friend.
(Why did I write on her Wall? I wrote one line querying why she’d taken my materials, knowing it would push into her friends’ and my friends’ News Feeds. It was important to me I alert others quickly her offerings were stolen materials. It didn’t surprise me she too quickly deleted the Wall post.
Also, even if you remove someone as a Facebook friend, you can still exchange email with one another. To prevent all interaction with a Facebook member, you have to block them as I wrote about here).
Ms. X returned my call and we had a short conversation. She kept asking how she could make it up to me and win back my trust. I had her on loudspeaker with a colleague listening in; my colleague said I was way too kind, patient, and understanding.
Hm, turns out Ms. X blamed her VA (virtual assistant) who’d “stepped down”; and then she sent me a bunch of flowers to my “office” (which is actually a PO Box I check twice a month tops). Oh well.
Here’s the thing: I do not believe in competition. Especially for the solopreneur. There’s only one YOU. No one can “compete” to be you. Even if you and I offer the exact same service, people will always do business with people they know, like, and trust. And, each of us adds our own personality, unique experience, and proven strategies into the mix.
Nonetheless, I cannot abide someone outright stealing from me. I could’ve created an amazing, win:win profitable collaborative venture with Ms. X… if only she’d asked. Sure as the saying goes, “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” But, I’d rather be flattered in other ways!
[I hesitated to write this post and expose such an unpleasant experience. However, I chose to go ahead in case even one person learns and benefits from it in some way.]
Now, I’m looking into CopyScape – have you used it? What actions would you recommend to protect your copyrighted materials online? Have you ever been a victim of plagiarism?